When Washington signed Adam LaRoche to a new contract, the “Michael Morse sweepstakes” officially began. ESPN and Sirus Sattelite radio’s Jim Bowden sent out this tweet on Monday claiming that there are 10-11 teams that are in on Morse. As we know, one of them is probably the Baltimore Orioles. First off let me start with a bit of housekeeping; I seriously doubt that 10-11 teams are truly in on Morse. There may be 10 or 11 teams that said something to the effect of “yeah sure in theory we’d love to have him.” But that would mean that roughly one-third of the league was willing to trade for Michael Morse. I doubt that’s the case; just my take.
However that aside I think that Baltimore would be a good fit for Morse, and I think that the Orioles have the piece(s) that Washington wants in return. However could something outside of these negotiations in effect doom the Orioles’ chances of landing Morse on the trade market? The Nationals are currently in a fight with MASN for how much they’ll be paid for their television rights. The team wants in the neighborhood of $100-$120 million, while MASN is apparently willing to give them in the $40-$50 million range. According to the contract, MASN would have to turn around and pay the Orioles whatever they’re paying the Nationals for their TV rights. The majority shares of MASN are of course also owned by Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos.
MASN and the Orioles are two separate entities that are owned by the same person (the Nationals also own a minority share of the network). That being the case, would Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo be petty enough to in effect spite the O’s and not be willing to do business with them? Either that or might Rizzo consider asking for more simply because in his view and that of the Nationals’ fans, the franchise is fighting the Orioles? That’s the rhetorical question at hand…the answer is something that I don’t have. However needless to say, the Nationals have never been happy with the MASN deal and they’d like for their television rights to be on the open market. However MASN (owned by Angelos) was awarded their TV rights in compensation for them coming to the region.
On one hand, I do agree that there’s a bit of a conflict of interest with the owner of one team in effect holding the TV rights to another franchise. Granted Angelos “the owner of the Orioles” doesn’t own the Nationals’ TV rights, but Angelos “the owner of MASN” does. From the standpoint of the Orioles, a deal was made and now the other party doesn’t like the terms and is trying to get out of that deal. From the perspective of Washington, they never liked the deal to begin with and they were forced into it in order to ensure that they had a franchise. But the terms of the MASN deal aren’t the issue at hand…the question is whether or not Mike Rizzo would allow that issue to creep onto the negotiating table when it comes to on-field personnel.
Again, I don’t know the true answer. However my personal opinion is that no, he wouldn’t allow the two deals to affect each other. While the Nationals aren’t happy with the MASN situation and there appears to be no doubt that they’re blaming the Orioles for their discontent, Rizzo is a very good GM. Good GM’s don’t let outside things influence player dealings. If he can improve his team via a trade, he owes it to the franchise and to it’s fans to do that. (The one caveat I would throw in there is trading within your division, which I feel is counterproductive.) The word on the street is that Rizzo wants a southpaw reliever, and that’s something that the Orioles can provide in exchange for Morse. If he was to get greedy and tell the Orioles that they’d have to throw in perhaps two relievers or even a position player (non-prospect), I suspect the O’s would walk away from the negotiations.
I think the Nationals fans would probably be thrilled if Rizzo asked for more than Morse was worth if for no other reason than to spite the O’s. That would certainly be a lose-lose in a way, because either the Orioles wouldn’t get a quality middle-of-the-order bat, or they’d grossly overpay for one. This is kind of a conspiracy theory I suppose, and as I said I think that Rizzo would be foolish to turn down the Orioles or ask for more (simply because it’s the Orioles) if the Orioles offer him the best deal to begin with.
For the record, Buster Olney of ESPN doesn’t feel that Washington will get too much for Morse given the injury concerns and the fact that he’s a free agent after the season. I still say that the Orioles should run the risk of trading a Matusz or a Patton in order to get that middle-of-the-order bat.